By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- There were plenty of reasons the Celtics signed Al Horford to a four-year $113 million contract in July, but his offensive production was certainly on that list. The 6-foot-10 forward has been one of the most efficient stretch bigs in the NBA for years, thriving as a 53.5 percent career shooter even though his attempts come from all over the floor.
So as the Celtics piled up the points in a high scoring 121-114 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night, one would expect Horford to be one of the team's top contributors. Instead, the nine-year veteran was an afterthought offensively for much of the night. On a night where the green set a new Garden team-record with 42 3-point attempts, the ex-Hawk took just five shots. Six other Celtics ended up with more shot attempts than the big man, who finished with nine points in 32 minutes of action.
How rare was it for Horford to take only five shot attempts while playing so many minutes? Basketball-Reference says it has only happened 12 other times in his career.
For a player that is earning twice as much as any other player on the roster, you would think the Celtics would be more committed to getting the unselfish 30-year-old more looks at the basket. After the game, Brad Stevens acknowledged that's an area the team needs to get better at.
"That's the first thing I saw when I looked at the stat sheet," Stevens said of Horford's shot total after the game. "It's not enough, I know that. So we need to do a better job of making sure that we help put him in position to be successful."
"That's unacceptable," teammate Jae Crowder added. "Starting from my point guard, starting with all the guys around him, we have to get [Horford] the ball in spots that we know he can help our team. That's very unacceptable."
When you look at the overall season numbers, the shot distribution problems aren't as troublesome as we saw Wednesday night. But there is certainly room for improvement. Even though Horford is taking more 3-point attempts than ever (3.3 per game) his overall field goal attempts (11.1) are down from his career average. The big man's 14 points per game are in line with his career numbers, but for a team that is trying to create a top-tier efficient offense, they aren't getting Horford the ball enough at the rim, where he is shooting 82 percent on the year.
On a team that's struggled mightily with shooting the 3-ball (28th in league in last three seasons) you'd think some easier looks at the rim would be welcomed. That wasn't the case against the Pistons.
"I wasn't overly happy with some of our shots. I felt like some of our shots were rushed," Stevens said Wednesday night. "When we play good offense we're really good on that end of the floor. But we have a tendency when teams are making runs against us or things aren't going out way to try to get it all back at once. And you just can't do that. You have to keep hitting singles."
Horford has put together an All-Star career in part by hitting those singles on the offensive end. He's not going to lead the Celtics on the offensive end on most nights, but the team needs to make sure he's more than an afterthought.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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